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10 Ways to Heal After Losing a Pet: Coping Strategies and Support
Losing a Pet: Coping Strategies and Support
For many people, pets are more than just animals – they are family. The loss of a pet can be a traumatic experience that can leave us feeling lost and alone. Fortunately, there are resources available to help us cope. Here are 10 ways to heal after losing a pet:
Allow yourself time to grieve
Losing a pet is a significant loss, and it’s important to give yourself permission to mourn. Everyone’s grieving process is unique, and there is no set timeline for how long it will take to feel better.
Don’t ignore your feelings of sadness
It’s important to acknowledge your sadness and not try to suppress or ignore it. You can cry, talk to someone, or express your feelings in other ways that feel comfortable to you.
Accept feelings of guilt
Feeling guilty after the death of a pet is a common experience. It’s important to remember that you did the best you could for your pet, and that their death was not your fault.
Seek the Right Support
When you’re grieving the loss of a pet, it can be difficult to find comfort from loved ones who may not understand the bond you shared with your furry friend. People can be dismissive and impatient, telling you to “get over it” or that you can always get another pet. This lack of understanding and sympathy can make grieving much harder.
If you’re struggling to find someone to lean on, consider seeking support from a pet loss support group or hotline. Local animal hospitals, veterinarians, and veterinary medicine schools may be able to point you in the right direction. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement offers a state-by-state list of pet bereavement support groups, live Internet chat rooms, and hotlines. The University of Pennsylvania also hosts two pet grief support groups and offers individual and family counseling. Additionally, Rainbow Bridge is a free online grief support community that provides a forum, pet-loss sympathy e-cards, a list of pet-loss hotlines, and other resources.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. As pet loss counselor Zimmerman says, “People who lose their pets should be given every opportunity to express their pain.”
Put Your Feelings on Paper
Creating a journal or scrapbook can be a helpful way to process your emotions and work through your grief. You can use the journal to reminisce and express unfiltered thoughts and feelings, and include photos and other mementos of your pet. This can be especially helpful for children, who may find it difficult to express their feelings verbally.
Lisa Cohn and her 5-year-old son used art and writing to cope with the loss of their beloved dog, Lucy. They put together collages of Lucy and wrote a book to keep her memory alive. This idea was so successful that Lisa’s son now suggests helping others write books when they lose a pet.
If you prefer a more guided approach, there are journals specifically designed for pet loss. The Kingdom of Heart: A Pet Loss Journal by Patty L. Luckenbach includes blank pages for photos, drawings, and text, and can help guide you as you struggle to find the right words and express your feelings.
Another option is to write a letter to your pet, expressing your feelings from the day they came into your life until their passing. Online services like ILovedMyPet.com also offer the opportunity to create a personalized website where you can post your feelings, photos, and videos for free.
Hold a ceremony
A ceremony can honor your bond with your pet and provide a sense of closure. Consider involving your children in the ceremony, allowing them to participate in creating a burial box or planting a tree on the grave.
Create a memorial
A memorial, whether in a pet cemetery or on your mantel, is another way to honor and express your love for your pet. You can find garden stones, statues, and jewelry to commemorate your pet.
While it’s important to honor your pet’s memory, it’s also essential to learn to let go and move forward. Put away memorials if they keep your grief too raw.
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Volunteering at an animal shelter can be a way to give love to a lonely shelter animal while receiving love in return. However, if you’re not ready to be around other animals yet, that’s normal too.
Don’t rush to replace your pet
Take your time before adopting a new pet. You need time to work through grief and loss before building a new relationship with a new pet. When you’re ready, adopt a pet that is different from your former companion to avoid comparisons.
In conclusion, losing a pet is a difficult experience, but it is possible to heal and honor your pet’s memory. Allow yourself to grieve, seek support, and consider participating in activities such as volunteering, creating a memorial, or holding a ceremony. Remember that healing takes time, and it’s important to move forward at your own pace.